Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No One Likes You, Please Die

One of the things about reading superhero comics for any amount of time is that you get pretty comfortable with a lot of second-rate, slipshod ideas that might seem laughable in any other context. A man with a magic ring who flies around the universe and takes orders from blue midgets in bathrobes? Great, let's make it the cornerstone of our fictional cosmology. A dude who gets to hobnob with the most powerful superheroes in the universe simply because he's good at shooting arrows? Wonderful, let's do it twice, and then recycle the idea a dozen times more.

Getting into the slightly loopy logic of superhero comics is what allows you to enjoy them. There have been a lot of good stories written about exposing these absurd notions to the harsh light of day. But really, when you get down to it, you're missing something if you can't "get" why a man who supposedly fights brutal street crime in dark alleys on a nightly basis while wearing all white with a giant billowing cape and vision-obstructing hood is, at least on some level, a fun idea. There's nothing wrong with that -- I don't like soap operas or Laurell K. Hamilton either, but more power to those who do.

But then, every superhero fan can also point to a few characters that cross this line. It's a different line for every fan, as you might imagine -- I know for a fact that some people think the idea of a naked man covered in silver riding around the cosmos on a surfboard is the height of silliness. As has been discussed, I have a lot of problems accepting Batman as a given -- but at the end of the day I can still enjoy a Batman story if I've a mind to do so. But there are a few characters who I simply can't stand, in any capacity. Not, mind you, characters like Turner D. Century or Dial H for H.E.R.O., characters so bad they're good, or even Diablo, the character so bad even Stan Lee hated him (but who never seems to go away). No, I mean characters for whom every single element, from their creation to their concept to their execution, is simply horrid. Characters for whom, try as you might, it is impossible to find one redeeming characteristic.

Quite by accident, the other day I realized just who my own nadir was. He's not a character you see much anymore (thank God), or even a character with any recognizable fanbase at all. And yet, for who-knows-why, he's also a character who gets trotted out every few years in some misguided attempt to update an idea that was abominable to begin with. The only -- and I mean only -- possible redeeming feature this character possesses is that his first appearances were drawn by the great Gil Kane.

I speak, of course, of Morbius the Living Vampire.

Don't ask me why, I couldn't for the life of me tell you. There's just something about the combination of bad ideas that creates, in my mind, a perfect storm of repellent lameness. Dr. Michael Morbius, a "Nobel Prize-winning biochemist" is afflicted with a rare blood disease that leads him to experiment with a radical cure involving a serum derived from vampire bats. Instead of curing himself, however, he becomes a strange "living vampire", forced to drink the blood of regular people. Somehow along the way his skin turned chalk-white, his eyes turned red and his nose became flat like a pug dog.

Just the sight of Morbius on a comic book cover makes me not want to buy said comic book. All Morbius ever does is whine -- whine about his condition, about his dead wife, about only drinking the blood of the innocent, blah blah fucking blah. He made his first appearance in the infamous story where Spider-Man had six arms -- yeah, if you've not read it, you're not missing much, Kane art aside. He later got a serial in Adventure Into Fear, which featured some bizarre science fiction shenanigans. Later on he was revamped as part of the Midnight Sons promotion -- ugh. He even returned, if I recall correctly, during Howard Mackie's dire last few years on the Spider-Man books -- thank God, if I read these at any point I don't remember them.

Morbius is unspeakably lame. To know him is to loathe him.

Look deep in your heart and you will know this to be true.

My idea for a "Fifty-State Initiative": we burn every Morbius comic in the country, state by state.

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